A while ago, I started thinking about the destructive blight that is mass tourism. I live in a pretty beautiful place, visited each year by 80-plus hideously hideous cruise ships and a few zillion cheapskates in camper-vans (with fake ‘self-contained’ stickers on their rear windows) etc. etc. As anyone who’s been alive on the planet for more than few minutes knows, tourism is quickly destroying the very thing that spawned it…places of beauty. And, yeah, I know I’ve done my share, mainly in Europe but here at home, too. (And I’m not sure how to think about local tourism. Save that for another post.)
Next thought was about which things, places, sights, structures etc. are considered tourist-worthy, and essentially how random that can be. Top tourism values might go something like: big (grand canyon), unique/rare (white rhinos), hard to get to (Antarctica or anyplace far away from where you live), beautiful (lots of places), and so on. So I was thinking, what about subverting some of those values. How about near and small? If, for example, you were to find a spider’s web in a tree in your back yard and spend a bit of time looking closely at it, you’d probably be absolutely amazed at how impressively intricate and strong-yet-delicate and beautiful and just generally awesome it is.
I confess, I did this while on a 10-day Vipassana retreat a few years ago, which I barely survived. With nothing to read or say or do except meditate — which I suck at — I’d go for these slow walks through the little bit of bush near the retreat to kill time. I came across a pretty cool spider web and spent quite a few hours watching it, watching the spider work on it, watching the spider deal with its catches. It got so I looked forward to going out to check on the web, and would be pretty crushed if it got damaged by a falling branch or a gust of wind.
Even lying in a patch of grass and staring down into the roots to see…ants and bugs and little things and roots and the amazingness of plants can be interesting. Then there’s looking up, into trees, especially if there are any birds around. So, you get the idea. I came to think of this as ‘micro-tourism’: better for you, better for the planet, and while not particularly selfie-worthy, you really do have to be the scum of the earth if you go places to take selfies anyway.
I talked about this with my friend, Hēni (not her real name), and we decided to share some micro tourism highlights. I don’t know if we’ll do much with it, but long segue to say that I was up in the bush near where I live this morning and, wow, there was this spider’s web that was out of this world. Big and tall, with what looked like a room (floor, walls, ceiling) and incredible structures holding it all to the tree. I guess it’s been there a while, because the ‘room’ was full of leaves and other detritus. Sadly, I was with someone else at the time, working on setting up a trap-line (you know, to murder possums and rats on behalf of…birds etc.) so I couldn’t spend too long with the web. I tried to film it with my iPhone and while I realise that’s not very effectively, here it is. Post No. 1 in the micro-tourism category. (And I think you need to click the ‘full screen’ icon to have any chance of seeing any of it…sorry about that. I’ll try to get better at this!)